A mix of fact and fantasy in which Tecumseh, a 19th-century Shawnee warrior and chief, is aided by three aliens in the battle to protect his lands and people from European incursion.
In his debut novel, Coon merges historical detail, science fiction, literary allusion, and odd, almost poetic lines that lend a heroic tone: “They were certain the Great Spirit itself had come down among the Shawnee, housed within the body of Gahnoque so strange.” As a child, Tecumseh witnesses a buck rescue a doe and its fawns from a pack of wolves, losing its own life in the process. His father, Puckshinwa (eventually murdered by whites), tells him the deer was touched by the Great Spirit. Later, a black panther emerges from the forest to rub against Tecumseh’s hand. These two events form the core of Coon’s thematic metaphors: self-sacrifice and the connection of Tecumseh (who becomes known as “Panther Across the Sky”) to cats. Despite his hatred of whites since his father’s death, Tecumseh carries on a lifelong friendship with settler John Sackett, whom he sees as a second father, and prevents his childhood nemesis and future traitor Sakdayga from killing Sackett. After Tecumseh meets the panther, an alien spacecraft crashes on Shawnee land. The warrior rescues the occupants, who have eyes like panthers and striped black fur. With the aliens’ help, the Shawnee initially score a number of victories against the invaders, seemingly forcing them into negotiations. Sadly, even with the aid of extraterrestrials in possession of some rather impressive weapons and battle skills, like all Native American sagas, lies and treachery eventually prevail. Coon skillfully walks a fine line between historical facts and speculative fiction, weaving a fascinating tale filled with realistic, empathetic characters.
Imaginative and well-considered; should please sci-fi fans as well as readers of historical fiction.